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Major US electronic health record (EHR) vendor Cerner is joining forceswith medication management solutions provider DrFirst to embed data from 46 states’ prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) into its EHR systems.

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For context, PDMPs are state-wide electronic databases that track controlled substance prescriptions, per the CDC. Integrating PDMPs into EHR systems could better inform physicians’ prescribing habits as the opioid epidemic intensifies: The opioid epidemic cost the US approximately $1 trillion from 2001 to 2017, and it’s projected to add on $500 billion by 2020, per Altarium.

Here’s what it means:Connecting EHRs to PDMPs should bode well for physicians.

  • More streamlined access to PDMPs could help physicians identify and manage patients at risk of abusing opioids. If a physician can quickly call upon information from PDMP databases alongside a patient’s medical history, they could provide more informed care and combat opioid overprescribing. Ensuring they’re not prescribing drugs to patients who are at risk of abusing them could be critical: Nearly 70% of the 70,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017 involved an opioid, according to the CDC. And since doctors are becoming more incentivized to have higher stake in patients’ outcomes, they’ll want to make sure they’re prescribing opioids appropriately.
  • It’ll also trim down physicians’ administrative burdens. States are pushing for physicians to tap into PDMPs to help inform prescription writing, per EHR Intelligence. But PDMPs can be burdensome for doctors who can’t access the databases from EHR systems. Combining PDMP databases and EHRs into a one-stop shop should streamline workflows and expedite the process, alleviating physician stress and burnout.

The bigger picture:As the opioid epidemic continues to plague the US, hospitals could lean on tech solutions for support.

  • It’s likely EHR vendors will continue to provide solutions to help physicians manage the opioid crisis. Over half of health organizations look to EHR vendors to help identify and manage problematic prescribing habits, according to a KLAS report surveying 117 clinical and managerial healthcare executives. And more will likely want to do so as the opioid epidemic worsens: The annual number of opioid overdose deaths is projected to exceed 82,000 by 2025, according to research cited in JAMA. This swelling crisis will meet a healthcare industry with a dwindling supply of physicians, so it’s likely that there will be a higher demand for fast, effective solutions built into the EHR systems that hospitals already have in place.
  • But a demand for innovative ways to curb the opioid crisis also opens the door for other tech developers to provide solutions.Cutting-edge tech like AI and blockchain prove useful in combatting the opioid epidemic. For example, machine learning algorithms can predict opioid overdose risk, which could allow doctors to allot resources to high-risk people. And health systems are trying to get a handle on the drug theft crisis by leveraging blockchain to track prescriptions. It’s likely there will be an uptick in innovative solutions from a wide swath of tech players as the weight of the epidemic continues to press on the healthcare industry.

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